Someone inquired recently about our Lost World Mini Terrarium Necklaces, and how they are made. The short answer is, very carefully! Joking aside, they’re the product of a lot of intricate work, and I appreciate the question. For artists who handmake work for sale, the process is often ignored in favor of the appearance of the finished product. If you’ve ever hand-made anything, you know that the process, the work, materials, skill, and effort that went into it is 80% of the finished product’s significance. And those of us who hand-make for a living really love it when someone appreciates the work we do! So here’s a bit on the process of making these pieces.
I love terrariums; the idea of an entire ecosystem existing under glass, green things growing and thriving, bits of nature you can keep close-by on a table or desk. We make contemporary terrariums at Hieropice, but only sell them at shows, due to the risk of damage during shipping. I wanted to make a version of our terrariums available to customers who can’t make it to shows in New England; a small, portable version of them that could be worn.
I began with a variety of miniature glass vessels. In went the elements of our full-size terraria; colorful sands and bits of fragrant reindeer moss. I wanted to add something extra-cool; living mushrooms can’t really be cultivated in a terrarium (or at least, to my knowledge) though I’d love to give it a go, but I thought of a way to incorporate adorable little mushrooms into the necklace version, by creating them out of polymer clay.
So, I mixed a few colors of polymer clay to resemble the natural tones of a live mushroom, and rolled the clay around a wire, topped with a clay mushroom cap carefully shaped with a manicure-tool, and with the point of a pin, applied clay polka dots to the cap. Likewise, I created mini succulent plants with the green tones of the clay, rolling out and slicing tendrils and pressing them together to form a miniature aloe/agave.
I trimmed the wires and the pieces went into the oven, and afterwards, I strategically placed them in the vessels with a narrow pair of tweezers. Adding additional Spanish moss or sand, and sealing with waterproof adhesive and a decorative stopper finishes them off, and they’re hung on meticulously-selected chain. Each one is unique, incorporating some elements and not others, created with color, contrast, and balance in mind. That’s the process, in a nut-shell, and thanks to the fan who inquired!
As Spring approaches, I’m looking ahead, planning for the goals I’m hoping to achieve at Hieropice.
As an independent artist who makes work to sell, it’s always a bit of a challenge to figure out the best approach to getting my stuff out there. There’s such a broad field, there are so many artists out there, so much work, how do I distinguish myself from the others?
One of the ways artists, like myself, get out there, is art/craft shows. A particular venue, like a center for the arts, gallery, or educational institution may host a craft show, a consortium of artists may put a show together, or, particularly around the holidays, an enterprising individual will organize a show and invite artists to apply to vend.
Often, a selection of established artists, or a “jury,” will determine which artists, out of those who’ve applied, will get to participate in a particular show. It’s like college apps all over again! Sans SATs… You submit photos, an application fee, info about your work, commit to a date/time in advance, send in your app and hope for the best. If you’re lucky, you get accepted, and you’re on your way!
Different shows require different items, but there are some essentials that an artist must always have on hand. Cash, in small bills, to make change with, and a cash box to store it. Bags, boxes, and paper to package sold items. A receipt book. Tape. A table covering (and often, a 6-foot table and chair). Portable lights. Decor for your table. Pens. Mannequins and display stands. Business cards. Your merchandise. If you’re a jewelry artist, several pairs of pliers, extra chain, extra earring backs, just in case. Tags for merchandise. Signage for your table. Chargers for various devices, like your phone, or laptop, if you bring one. Extension cords. I also bring a portable hotspot and charger so I can always connect to the internet to accept credit card payments, and a device to allow me to swipe credit cards, for customers who don’t have cash.
Whew! There are a ton of things to think of, to make your show seamless, and ensure happy customers. If you’re doing outdoor shows, add a tent to the list. Art/crafts vendors have to (try to!) anticipate any potential needs, wants, disasters, surprises that might arise. It’s a lot, particularly if you’re doing it on your own.
The trade-off is interacting with the public. Getting to answer questions by fascinated passers-by about how your work is made. The oohs and ahhs, and shows of support by complete strangers, the curiosity. Chatting with other artist/vendors, trading tips about great places to eat nearby whatever gallery, church, street or store you might be in. Hilarious stories, about shows past, intriguing anecdotes. A fellow vendor at a recent show told a horror story of a craft show where an attendee, who was never caught, managed to swipe thousands of dollars in merchandise from the tables of artists vending there, just by casually blending in to the crowd, posing as a potential customer. I’ve watched vendors’ carefully-crafted displays repeatedly topple in the wind at an outdoor festival, merchandise rolling down the street while the owners chased after it. And then there’s the merch…
I’ve discovered such cool things, that I know I’d never have found elsewhere. Brightly-painted miniature coffee tables, with pompom bunnies and tassles adhered to them. Intricately-sculpted soaps, in the shape of fluffy cinnamon buns, complete with flecks of cinnamon and dripping icing. A chocolate gorilla head. Who makes a lamp out of cocktail umbrellas?! I saw these, by Bright Lights Little City,
and had to have one! That’s a creative brain, that came up with that idea. I always encounter work that is so innovative, so interesting, and frankly, a little weird. Rather than purchasing from a store where thousands of other people will have the same manufactured piece, the idea that mine will be the only one exactly like it makes these pieces irresistible. Fern-inspired earrings made from re-purposed electronics parts? Yes please. I love that craft show artists are letting their imaginations run wild, creating whatever quirky weirdness strikes their fancy, crafting out of unusual materials, making, unmaking, redesigning and making again, getting inspired, and putting themselves out there. It’s a huge risk to put your stuff out there to be judged! You can only hope, that after the work you’ve sweated over is perused, handled, examined, and judged, someone will like your work enough to want to own it.
So Hieropice will be doing some shows this Spring. I’ll keep you fine folks updated, as to where and when. If you do come see us, show us some love! Perhaps you’ll find something special, that you just have to have. ;)
I live in New England. Usually, around this time of year, it’s an average of 40 – 50 degrees out, and we have the occasionally April snowstorm. For whatever reason (ahem..climate change..ahem) it’s been in the 60s-70s here for the past week, and who knows how long it’ll last! Our first day of Spring was warm and sunny, and I was inspired!
Crocuses and snowdrops are peeking out everywhere, and the sparks are life are refreshing, after months of grey-brown landscape. So I thought it’d be wonderful to create a version of our Lost World Mini Terrarium Necklaces that would celebrate Spring; contain the elements of Spring that the wearer could keep with them regardless of the weather outside.
So I created a few tiny versions of the blooms I’m starting to scope in nooks and crannies around town, and set them in miniature verdant, mossy landscapes with little green sprouts. Several different styles are available, with mini daffodils, crocuses, tulips and periwinkle, in heartdrop, bulb, cognac and teardrop -shaped vials. I’m excited about these new creations, and hope you all enjoy them! I have to say, for all we know, it could be snowing here next week, so at least I’ll have a miniature, encapsulated version of the most florid season to enjoy! If we have to revert back to snowboots and down coats, I may pretend I’m living inside one of the Lost World Mini Terrariums, enjoying the sun and smelling the flowers… Instead of, you know, shoveling my car out of a snowdrift! Happy Spring!
I’ve been fascinated with plants and flowers (and sometimes, bugs!) for many years; when I was 5, I discovered a compelling flower in the woods during a class trip, plucked it and presented it to my teacher, whose eyes welled-up as she explained it was an endangered ladyslipper orchid.
Pink ladyslipper orchid
Which I’d just killed, by picking it. Woops! I found fascinating plants irresistible even then, and over the years, I studied a lot of biology, medicinal plants, did a lot of foraging, lots of reading and research, in my quest to learn all there was to know about plants.
A couple of years ago, a friend forwarded me a NY Times slideshow called The Art and Craft of Terrariums. It was full of whimsical images of terraria, many with miniatures figures and vignettes inside, in a vibrant array of colors. I was instantly captivated. At the time, I worked in a dreary, gray office, with no windows. The possibility of bringing a shot of life and color into my cavern-like space was really exciting. I had to try to make one!
My first terrarium!
My first attempts ended somewhat abyssmally. I didn’t fully understand the complexities of semi-closed ecosystems, and had trouble creating a good balance. Those terraria have long dried-out, rotted, molded, been tossed in the wastebin. I did more research, read what experts had to say about maintaining the health of plants, and experimented. I scoured thrift shops for unusual glass vessels, and greenhouses for plants in complementary colors. My apartment filled up quickly, with all manor of candy-jar, water pitcher and reclaimed-glass-lantern terraria. I battled with condensation, bugs, and die-off, but in time, created some beautiful things, that brought charm and light into my home. I began offering classes on how to make terraria for adults at schools around Boston, and brought the terraria I could carry to craft shows to sell.
More recent terrarium, made from a converted glass lantern
Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if you could actually WEAR one? And I had a dilemma… How to create something that captured the charm of the life-size terraria, but took the fact that we all have lives into consideration. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to water, dead-head, re-plant, and monitor the health of their jewelry; the pieces would have to require no maintenance, but still contain life.
Again, I started experimenting, scouting miniature glass vessels, putting little bits of the materials I used for the life-size terraria inside, working with contrasting textures and colors.
I added a bit of whimsy, creating itty-bitty mushrooms and succulent plants out of polymer clay, and “planting” them in the mini vials, tucking bits of moss around them. I began offering the necklaces on Etsy. When Spring approached, I thought it’d be wonderful to incorporate some flowers, which turned out to be a major challenge to make! I changed elements of the necklaces over time, striving to make them weather the bumps and jolts of the shipping process better. Etsy customers began to engage in the making process, requesting fantastic custom creations, featuring shades of green, or even mini-cacti and a leather cord (to make it more masculine!). Their participation has made the process even more fun! I love making these pieces, and look forward to the many incarnations they’ll develop into over time. Thanks for being a part of the process!
Hard at work, creating new pieces for Hieropice, though the sun’s finally out and it’s looking pretty good outside! But I’m excited about our new items; the Lost World Mini Terrarium Necklaces we rolled out recently, the new Cobalt Maasai Beaded Necklace with semi-precious chips shown above, and now, I’m getting to work on some new coral/crystal pieces I’m already in love with. Yay!
I’ve noticed a lot of celebs rocking large, statement earrings lately, like Anya Ayoung Chee of Project Runway, Nene Leakes of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Gloria Govan of Basketball Wives, and others. As an aside, how come so few of the ladies on these “Housewives” shows are actual housewives? Just saying…
Anyhoo, you know I love this trend. The Maasai pieces at Hieropice are all about making a statement. I appreciate the pieces particularly because sometimes, I just get lazy when it comes to my wardrobe. If I could wear pajamas 24-7 without getting thrown in the loony bin, I totally would. But, a pair of jeans, a knit V-neck, and snowboots often have to suffice, and frankly, the ensemble needs something to be remotely presentable. The Maasai Beaded pieces do the trick. With a pair of the Maasai earrings on, or a necklace, I look sophisticated and elegant, like my outfit is intentional (not an afterthought!) and I feel confident. Can’t beat that feeling with a stick!If you haven’t seen the pieces yet, check them out here: Hieropice on Etsy!